Start making plans for next spring’s garden

By Lelia Kelly and David Nagel

Extension Horticulture Specialists

 

The last harvest of tomatoes, peppers and other tender vegetables should have been done by now, before Jack Frost takes these plants home to their fathers.

What are you going to do with all those green tomatoes, red tomatoes, peppers or whatever? Eat as much as you can, process the rest (canning or freezing) and give the remainder to hungry friends, neighbors or a food bank.

As the warm growing season comes to an end, it is time to slow down a little, enjoy the fall colors and the crisp cool days, and start to make plans for the garden next spring.

The dormant season ahead would be a good time to establish or expand a flower or vegetable garden. Adding soil amendments or taking soil samples now will allow plenty of time for planning —as well as planting — the garden next spring.

A good way to give the garden a facelift for the fall is to apply a fresh layer of mulch — nothing makes the garden look neat and tended to better than new mulch!

It is not too late to seed the cool-season annuals and wildflowers in the areas that will not be mulched. Don’t mulch those areas of the garden where you rely on reseeding to repopulate your beds.

You can dig up and divide the spring and summer flowering perennial plants now, or anytime during the dormant season. Be sure and water the divided clumps well to aid in good root growth.

Clean up any dead or spent plants, in particular summer annuals that look ratty — replace with colorful fall annuals, seed cool-season flowers or just cover the area with mulch. Don’t forget to leave some seedheads for the wildlife.

Take advantage of these nice cool mornings and head out into the garden with a pad and pencil to jot down ideas and sketches to improve the garden.

For example, take notes of what worked, what didn’t. Maybe you need a screen plant here. Or maybe you need to plant a tree over there for shade or color. You might need to move that plant that is blocking that pretty view out the window, or poking you in the eye every time you walk past. The dormant season is a good time to move those plants that are crowding their neighbors.

Begin to pour over those catalogs that you are getting in the mail. Don’t get too bug-eyed with all the glossy pictures. Choose wisely! Base your decision on affordability and suitability for the situation. Is it adapted to this region? Will it remain in the space allotted without excessive pruning? Will it serve the purpose you intended?

Why haven’t the leaves changed color?

The change from green to red, yellow, orange and purple results from the chlorophyll (the green pigment) being metabolized and the other colors becoming dominant. Conditions so far this fall have been warm, sunny and moist. The conditions are ideal for more growth and the trees are gathering energy from sunlight through the chlorophyll. Other colors should appear soon as the cold fronts come through and make the conditions less favorable.

Vegetables

Okra is not adapted to cold temperatures. Examine your okra plants closely and see if the growing point at the top of the plant was damaged by cold temperatures.

If the terminal bud is black, the plant is done producing flowers for a while until a secondary bud in a leaf axil lower on the plant can grow a secondary stem. You need to decide if you need more okra to gamble on warm weather returning for a while, or if it is time to move the okra stalks to the compost pile.

Tomato fruit worms are attacking in large numbers now. Apply Bt or other insecticides if you see worm damage on your fruit.

Less than two months are left before Christmas. You can still plant broccoli transplants and have little green trees (broccoli spears) for the party season.

Don’t forget the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association conference Nov. 14 and 15 at the Silver Star Resort in Choctaw.. Growers can play the Dancing Rabbit course on Wednesday the 13th.